B-26: The Marauder Strikes!Posted by Magnus Kimura 2019-04-12 23:33:25http://b26.com/historian/chester_klier/027.htm
Thursday, September 23, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 27:
Briefing was called to order by Major Hankey at 1200 hours - Third Bomb Wing directs our Group to attack the airdrome at Beauvais-Tille, France by F.O. 101. We will follow the 323rd Bomb Group, each Group will put up thirty-six aircraft plus spares. Each of the planes are loaded with ten 300 pound GP bombs fused for one-tenth second delay nose and tail. The primary target is identified as Z154 on the target map. Axis of attack is generally northwest to southeast. The aiming point is ammunition and bomb storage, also dispersal areas on the northeast side of field. The airdrome is well camouflaged with two 1500 yard long runways going from northwest to southeast, and from southwest to northeast. The northeast dispersal has twenty-seven aircraft shelters, two fuel loops, and personnel quarters. Our secondary target is the airdrome located at Poix, France, Z364 on the target map.
The route out from base to Splasher Beacon Number 9 to 50 Degrees 20 Minutes North, 00 Degrees 40 Minutes East, which is our fighter rendezvous point over the channel. We make landfall at Criel and on to the target. The route back is a left turn off the target to Cayeux on the enemy coast, cross the channel making English landfall over Dungeness, and back to base. Diversion airdromes for today are Gravesend and West Malling.
Altitude and timing: Rendezvous with 323rd Group 12,000 feet over Splasher Number 9 at Zero Hour minus sixteen minutes. Rendezvous with fighter escort 12,000 feet over channel at Zero Hour. Bomb from 10,500 feet, exit enemy territory at 10,000 feet, and return over England at 8,000 feet.
This is the flak story - at enemy landfall September 21st, 88mm flak was weak, not very accurate. Dieppe has very heavy flak concentration ten miles to your southwest at enemy landfall. Some flak has been reported at Le Treport on your left going in. You can expect heavy type flak from Marseille, which is four miles left of your course and ten miles out from the target. There are twenty-two known heavy type guns located near the primary target. One six gun position two miles north northeast, one four gun position three and one-half miles to the northeast, one six gun emplacement one and one-half miles to the east, and another six gun position 1100 yards to the south-southwest. The flak in this area is classed as moderate to intense, and fairly accurate by recent experience of the 323rd and 387th Bomb Groups. Gun fire was described as bursting large and vertical rather than a horizontal spread. Opening fire apparently plotted concentration - thereafter a continuous following salvo type.
The secondary target has eighteen heavy guns. A four gun position 3,200 yards east-southeast of target, a four gun position one mile west-northwest, and a third four gun emplacement one mile to the southwest. There is also a six gun site located 1700 yards north-northwest of the target. This anti-aircraft fire has been judged to be moderate to intense and accurate. Abbeville must be avoided on the route back, it is eight miles to right of your course. They have heavy type, intense accurate flak there, also a heavy four gun position in the vicinity of Molliens Vidane.
Communications are as follows: Contact 323rd Group on VHF Channel B, also fighter to bomber on that channel. Bomber call sign is WINDBAG. The fighter call sigh is CROKAY, and Ground Sector call sign is SIMPSON. Air-Sea-Rescue on VHF Channel D. The following Splasher Beacons will be operating for the duration of the mission - 6D, 7E, 8F, and 9G. Group leader or deputy will report to Wing upon clearing the enemy coast.
The weather forecast: At take off time, six-tenths cirrus at 20,000 feet, no low or medium clouds. Visibility will be four miles in haze extending up to 3,000 feet. The route out, no low or medium clouds, a few patches of cumulus over south England. Visibility is four miles in haze, improving to six miles near English Coast and becoming eight to ten miles over France. The target will have five to six-tenths cirrus above 25,000 feet, no low or medium clouds. Wind will be from 330 degrees at 19 m.p.h. Forecast temperature at bombing altitude is 03 degrees Centigrade, freezing level is 12,000 feet. The route back will remain unchanged except for visibility falling off, four miles at 4,000 feet down to one or two miles below 1,800 feet. Low tide at 1310 hours and high tide at 1858 hours with a change of 13.9 feet.
S-2 reports twenty single engine fighters based at the secondary target, Poix Airdrome. Sixty aircraft are based in the vicinity of the primary target. All gunners keep a sharp lookout, and all crews make note of enemy aircraft markings and paint schemes. We do expect enemy fighter reaction during this mission. Our escort for today will be twelve squadrons of Spitfires. A time check was made with all watches, briefing ended at 1306 hours. Flight crews picked up their escape kits and candy bars as they filed out of the room. They climbed into trucks which took them out to their assigned aircraft parked at various locations around the periphery of the airfield. During the next half hour or so they would be checking over their planes prior to engine start time.
Meanwhile in the southeastern part of England other briefings were taking place. Some eighteen RAF B-25 Mitchell’s would be attacking a target on the Brest Peninsula. Their close escort would be three Czechoslovakian Squadrons flying Mark V Spitfires. The leader from 313 Squadron was Frantisek Fajtl who hails from Prague. His fuselage letters were RY-F. The Spitfire tactics would be: Fly at sea level at 195 m.p.h. for fourteen minutes, rapid climb to 13,000 feet at Point St. Mathieu, (which would be the bombing altitude for the Mitchell’s) left turn after bombing, recross French Coast at 9,000 feet, then dive to sea level and return to base.
Two separate Hawker Typhoon fighter sweeps were scheduled to coincide with the above air attack in France. The first fighter sweep conducted by Number 183 Squadron to set course for Lizard, Zero Hour minus fourteen minutes. Then fly at sea level for eight minutes at 250 m.p.h., then climb rapidly to 18,000 feet at Lanildut to sweep at high speed and destroy any enemy aircraft seen. Arrive at Landerneau at 16,000 feet three minutes after bombers - withdraw at discretion of the leader.
A second fighter sweep comprised of 193 and 266 Squadrons to arrive over Lizard at Zero Hour minus sixteen minutes - climb rapidly to 20,000 feet at Ushant. Then sweep at high speed and destroy any Germans seen. Fly to Guipavas at 17,000 feet and withdraw at discretion of the leader. Fighter Control Center for all squadrons will be Portreath.
Twelve other Spitfire squadrons were receiving their orders for today’s operation - execution: Zero Hour 1520, target Z154 for seventy-two Marauders, two Groups, 323rd and 386th. Close escort: 12 Group with two squadrons of Mark V for 323rd Group, and two squadrons from Heston flying Mark V’s to escort the 386th Group. Escort cover: Two squadrons from Tangmere will be flying Mark XII’s. High cover: Four squadrons, two from Hornchurch to escort the 323rd, and two from Biggin Hill to escort the 386th, all flying Mark IX Spitfires. Top cover from 122 Airfield with two squadrons flying Mark IX’s. Top cover to keep in visual contact with high cover Wings. Rendezvous to be at 50 Degrees 20 Minutes North, 00 Degrees 40 Minutes East at Zero Hour. Altitude to be 12,000 feet. Route and timing: Target Zero Hour plus twenty minutes, 11,000 feet turn left to Cayeux to Dungeness to base.
Time was 1504 hours, Major Hankey leading thirty-six B-26’s from the 386th Group had just rendezvoused with the 323rd Bomb Group 12,000 feet over Splasher Number 9. The 323rd would lead the entire show today. Major Hankey’s deputy lead in number four position was Captain Sands. High flight leader, Captain Thornton, low flight leader was Major Beaty. Approximately 1500 yards to the rear, and some 500 feet lower came Major Ramsey heading up the second box of eighteen ships. Captain Gianatsis was the leader in the high flight, and Lieutenant Purdy was fronting the low flight.
The formation was well out over the channel and had begun test firing their guns, then
Lieutenant Ansel Brandstrom piloting, "GERONIMO" 131630 RG-J who was scheduled as an extra pilot; encountered a mechanical difficulty with the plane; was seen making a graceful 180 turn heading back to base. The RAF arrived at 1520 hours with flights of four Spitfires observed flying in all quarters of the sky. Beautiful elliptical wing forms rocked from side to side as pilots maneuvered into their respective combat support positions. Lieutenant Hochrein flying, "MISS FORETUNE II" 134885 AN-M in number five position, high flight in the second box developed a mechanical fault in his ship - thus forcing him to leave the formation and return to base.
Time was 1530 hours, enemy landfall was at hand - only a few rounds of 88mm flak marred the bright blue sky as the aerial force moved inland from Criel. They were flying a course of 138 degrees which would lead them to their target some fifty-six miles ahead. Presently 386th crews could see the 323rd Group about one mile in front catching 88mm anti-aircraft fire from the left side of their route - most likely being fired from the heavy gun positions at Marseille. Not much time to ponder, within seconds the 386th was also engulfed by ugly black soot colored bursts of flak which unfurled menacingly close to the bombers. The enemy fire was moderate in amount and fairly accurate for track and altitude as orchestrated by deep throaty sounds like, Whoomph - Whoomph, indicating a very close near miss!
The flak barrage abated; only to be replaced by a more formidable threat, enemy fighters! One Spitfire was observed going down in a tight spin as two other Spitfire escorts bathe a Focke-Wulf 190 with 20mm cannon fire - a large portion of a wing panel snapped off, and the German plane plunged earthward in a grave yard spiral! A FW-190 approached Captain R.D. Williamson’s ship flying number four in the high of the second box. His tail gunner Staff Sergeant S.A. Ayers saw the enemy plane turn in from 6 o’clock position at 400 yards, he fired off one hundred twenty-five rounds in one long burst which caused the German to break away at 200 yard range without firing a shot - when last seen the enemy was spiraling down trailing smoke.
Captain B.R. Ostlind was piloting, "MISS CARRIAGE" 134961 RG-M in number four spot of the high flight in the first box. Two Me-109’s approached from 11 o’clock low, but did not fire. One of the enemy planes passed under the bomber and began climbing, at that point tail gunner Staff Sergeant R.A. Coyle fired some forty rounds at 175 yards. Top turret man Staff Sergeant D.E. Corbin joined in the firing with one hundred-fifty rounds at 200 yards without observed effect. Staff Sergeant Coyle saw Spitfires go after the fleeing Messerschmitt and shoot it down!
Major Hankey, first box leader had begun the bomb run into the target area just as a FW-190 approach his low flight leader, Major Beaty from 12 o’clock high position, the enemy was being pursued by Spitfires. Lieutenant R.J. Pyle got off twenty-five rounds at the attacker while serving as bombardier with the Lieutenant Wentz crew who were flying off the right wing of their flight leader Major Beaty. The bombardier fired his flexible nose gun from, "THE YANKEE GUERRILLA" 134946 YA-L at approximately 300 yard range, but he did not claim any hits on the fighter plane. Gunners in the waist and tail of a ship named, "SON-OF-SATAN" 131613 YA-Y flown by Major Beaty took up the battle with the same FW-190. They were Staff Sergeants L.E. McDaniel and E.O. Stensrud respectively. The enemy fighter slid to the outside of the formation, then peeled off into a dive still being chased by the Spitfires.
Heavy type flak was bursting among the bombers as they unleashed their deadly cargo on the enemy airdrome 10,500 feet below at 1546 hours. The anti-aircraft fire was fairly accurate; Lieutenant Robert Kingsley flying, "HELL’S-A-POPPIN II" 131987 YA-G number six position in Major Hankey’s flight picked up a hole in his nose wheel door cover. Another piece of flak penetrated the ship gashing a hydraulic line to the bomb bay door selector valve. His plane also received hits in an engine nacelle, outboard wing flap, a hole in the top wing skin, and two holes in his elevator, all on the left side of the plane.
Back in the second box, "SHADRACK" 131586 RU-J (this plane would later be traded to the 552nd B.S.) flown by J.M. Peters received a two inch hole in the leading edge of his right wing about six feet outboard from the landing light. Lieutenant Robert McCallum flying a ship named, "HONEY CHILE" 131636 RU-B received a nine inch diameter hole in the left engine nacelle which cut the landing gear transmitter wiring and damaged the landing gear flange mount - a two inch diameter hole appeared in the inboard side of the same nacelle.
Continuous bursting flak around the bombers did not deter persistent attacks by the enemy fighter pilots. Ship number 131827 AN-G flown by Lieutenant H.E. Hodge was now under siege by two FW-190’s. One of them flew about 1,000 feet above the number six ship in the high flight of the second box of eighteen for ten to twenty seconds, then made an approach from 8 o’clock high at 600 yards. The top turret man of Lieutenant Hodge fired some 200 rounds at the diving fighter. Staff Sergeant T.V. Edelman was scoring telling hits in the engine as part of its cowling flew off - the enemy plane rolled over exposing a silver belly and underside wings, suddenly flames appeared around the engine as the plane headed down and out of view!
A second FW-190 was coming in on the same B-26 from 5 o’clock low position - it flew along a few hundred yards below and to the right side of the formation, then quickly slid under. Staff Sergeant Paul Scott manning his waist gun let loose with one hundred-fifty rounds at 100 yard range scoring hits in the engine, the enemy peeled away rolling over on its back toward seven o’clock low. The plane slanted down emitting white puffs of smoke in rapid succession which would indicate a seriously damaging internal engine fire had occurred! Staff Sergeant F.J. De Lisle, Jr. witnessed the foregoing action from his tail gun position in Lieutenant Hodge’s plane, which established an enemy aircraft damaged claim confirmation for Staff Sergeant Scott.
Lieutenant C.B. Roe was flying, "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd " 131763 RU-O, number six position in the lead flight of the second box - his aircraft shuddered briefly as several rounds of 20mm projectiles slammed into the bomb bay of his ship. The fusillade was fired by a FW-190 pilot who had climbed up from 4,000 feet, attacking the bomber from directly below. That maneuver hid him from the gunner’s view in Roe’s ship, but not the waist gunner on Captain T.J. White’s ship, "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F in the number four position of the same flight. The gunner fired four rapid bursts of about ten rounds each, the last at 200 yards. The third burst started a fire in the enemy ship’s engine, a final burst appeared to hit the pilot. The yellow nose fighter with white crosses on its wings headed straight down with fire and a plume of black smoke trailing behind. When last observed at 2,000 feet, the German plane was still burning and in a steep dive. Because nobody saw the plane hit the ground, Staff Sergeant L.S. Hileman was credited with a FW-190 probably destroyed!
The bomber formation was making the prescribed left turn off the target as a FW-190 approached, "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd " from 6 o’clock low. A burst of fifteen to twenty tracers were seen coming from the enemy plane as he rolled into level flight about 700 yards out. Lieutenant Roe’s tail gunner returned fire with four bursts from his two guns - the fighter dropped straight down, began smoking at 5,000 feet, then crashed into the ground and exploded in a fireball! Staff Sergeant P.P. Raczor received full credit for a FW-190 destroyed.
A mile or so from the target, two FW-190’s approached the number five ship in the high flight of the first box which was flown by Lieutenant R.B. Hoffman. Staff Sergeant J.S. Russum manning the top turret of, "SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS" 134941 RG-D opened fire at 300 yards as the fighters came down from 6 o’clock high, both ships made a diving 180 degree turn away from the bomber without firing a shot. The enemy wing man stuck with his leader like a shadow as they swept down behind the B-26, then found themselves being fired upon by tail gunner Staff Sergeant C.H. Ellis. All participants came out of the brisk encounter unscathed!
It was three minutes since the formation left the target - a Messerschmitt 109 headed for,
"SHADRACK" being flown by Lieutenant J.M. Peters, number three man low flight of the second box. Staff Sergeant W.S. Gardner commenced firing with his tail guns as the German pilot maneuvered his sleek fighter at 7 o’clock low position about 700 yards out. Firing in quick bursts the tail gunner got off about one hundred rounds, scoring hits as the enemy broke away at 600 yards. Top turret man Staff Sergeant L.W. Looney saw a streak of smoke emitting from the enemy ship which was soon being chased by a pair of Spitfires.
Twelve of the enemy planes sighted by bomber crews managed to break through the Spitfire cover - however it was unusual that the German pilots did not take advantage of the sun position during their attacks! The RAF fighter pilots were extremely aggressive in dealing with the large force of German aircraft, by not allowing them to attack the B-26’s with impunity! Remarkable as it may seem only a few of the enemy got anywhere near the bombers, and most of those had pairs of Spits right on their tails.
Two sets of railroad tracks lay directly below the bomber formation - a thirty car train was observed puffing away in the direction of Poix, five miles east of their route. The Germans had set out smoke generators in a strategic pattern on the ground; surface winds carried long streamers of smoke from the pots over the countryside. That action was becoming more frequent as noted by flight crews during recent operations - however for the moment, nobody could figure out what the enemy was trying to hide from us!
Scattered bursts of 88mm flak appeared as the Group neared the exit point of enemy territory at Cayeux on the French coast at 1601 hours. The anti-aircraft fire was seen to come from the vicinity of some new concrete construction - a rectangular domed shape like the entrance to an underground shelter. Minutes later the formation was well in the clear out over the channel, heading for English landfall at Dungeness. From there is was almost a straight shot north to base where the first plane landed at 1650 hours.
The interrogation room was a real noise box filled with cigarette smoke while the crews filed their combat reports. All had high praise for the Spitfire escort for today. Major Beaty said the 323rd Bomb Group’s bombs hit a fuel dump in the southwest dispersal area. Captain Thornton said he heard, "D for dog calling Mayday on the way back." Lieutenant Wasowicz’s crew suggested that the Spitfires refrain from diving near our bomber formations, they resemble enemy tactics at times. Some crews reported B-26’s firing on the escort, and thought more aircraft recognition information was needed. Also suggested that bomber crews meet with Spitfire pilots to discuss this problem. Many crews said both officers and enlisted men’s food situation was getting worse, can’t fly on that stuff!
Other observations: Smoke was seen rising from a factory in the middle of a forest south of Londinieres. Thirty barges reported at the mouth of the Somme River. There was a concentration of some eighty freight cars near the town of Marseille-en-Beauvaisis, and up to one hundred-sixty cars in the marshalling yard at Abancourt.
Operating from Mount Farm, England; an F-5 (P-38) Photo-recon plane from the 7th Photo Group was plying its way across the sky over Beauvais-Tille Airdrome at 1625 hours on Sortie AA-312. The purpose was to gain a damage assessment of the raid just concluded by the 323rd and 386th Bomb Groups.
Photos numbered 1513 and 1515 indicated the following results: West dispersal area shows one medium aircraft in dispersal bay damaged. Six holes in a hangar roof along with fifteen craters in a service tarmac, and eighteen craters in the east landing area. Six hits in the ammo dump located in an orchard, the fires were still burning. Approximately thirty craters in a flak gun position just to the west.
Two sheds destroyed in the northeast refueling area and three others damaged. At least sixty craters are visible in that area, many of which damaged taxi tracks. Three craters near center of northeast-southwest runway, and two craters in the northwest-southeast runway. Some scattered concentrations are seen for at least one mile to the north of the target. The northwest dispersal area had one hit on a taxi track, and a concentration of craters just to north of it in open ground.
The 323rd Bomb Group is believed to have started the big fire in the ammo dump. Other damage on the enemy airdrome indicates bombing results of the first and second boxes of eighteen ships from the 386th Bomb Group from fair to good! Five aircraft from the 386th Group in the first box, along with ten aircraft in the second box received battle damage from both flak and enemy fighters in today’s operation.
Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group
B-26: The Marauder Strikes!Posted by Magnus Kimura 2019-04-12 12:52:05
Thursday, April 12, 1945 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 395:
New developments concerning my Bomb Group History project came to me in a rather bizarre manner - with a policeman standing on my doorstep the morning of November 29, 1983. He had just received a radio call to inform me that I should contact police headquarters for an important message! Then I was told to call a certain number collect in New York City and ask for Lieutenant William Seidenstein. I was surprised to learn that it was the District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn! All this due to the fact that I had an unlisted telephone number, so he decided to work through my local police department.
Lieutenant Seidenstein told me he had been asked to get in touch with me by some people in Bavaria. It regarded a mission the 386th Bomb Group had flown to their town on April 12, 1945. Was this the beginning of a multi-million lawsuit for property damage? After all, the courts have been arriving at some surprising decisions in recent years!
The lieutenant told me the Lotos Film Company of Bavaria wanted to contact me. I said, "Wait a minute, I have a letter in my file from a law firm in Arlington, Virginia with the names of eight lawyers at the top stating that they represented the Lotos People." He said, "That’s correct, I have a copy of the letter in front of me." The letter mentioned the date of the mission, and listed names of seven pilots that took part in the raid, and also each pilot’s squadron number. The pilot’s names listed were: Doyle D. Dickson, 554th, James B. Colvert, 554th, Donald J. Amiot, 554th, Edward E. Elliott, 555th, R. Harbinson, 553rd, J.C. Cothron, Jr., 555th, and Karl W. Huckaby, Jr., 554th Squadron. At the time I was in contact with four of those pilots. I wrote to the law firm telling them that I would not release addresses of the pilots, but would send each of them a copy of the letter and suggested if they wished to contact the law firm it must be their decision. I guess those pilots thought the same as I did - there was no response from the pilots!
The Lieutenant told me the law firm was no longer on the project, and the Bavarian people would like him to act as middleman in contacts with me. I said, "Okay what would you like me to do? He asked it I would do some research on the mission to aid these people. I requested two weeks time with a suggestion that he call back then. I plunged into the research program, finally coming up with notes that actually measured twenty feet in length. Then I wrote a rough draft of the entire mission from briefing time to interrogation after the mission was completed. During the next phone call I briefed the Lieutenant on my findings, he would call the people in Bavaria on the telephone to bring them up to date on my progress.
A few days later another telephone call from the Lieutenant saying they were very interested and would like to fly to St. Louis to talk with me about the mission. The meeting would involve a movie crew and soundman, the end result being a documentary to be shown on German Television. I was also told that a prediction was made several hundred years ago by young woman saying the town of Kaufbeuren would never be destroyed, however I would learn more of that when their party arrived at my home. A date was set for the 4th and 5th of February, 1984 for our historic meeting.
I met the travelers at The Airport-Marriott Hotel, directly across the road from the terminal at Lambert St. Louis International Airport. There was Lieutenant William Seidenstein and his lovely wife Donna along with Film Producer Eberhard Thiem and Arno Peik. They followed me with their rented car to my home some seven miles distant. Upon arrival they unloaded several aluminum suitcases and a small trunk, all packed with camera gear. I asked Eberhard how he found out where I lived, his answer was, "Your government told me." Nuff said!
The next thing was a welcome to St. Louis and refreshments, then some brief talk about the overall project. Eberhard and Arno began unwrapping a large package saying they had a gift for my wife and myself. It was a tall vase about sixteen inches high and about five inches in diameter made of clear glass. It has two white birch trees almost as high as the vase with a stone wall, a roadway with some flowers along side. They said the scene was not painted on the glass. Each of the many colors was made of colored glass, and then it was fused into the clear glass of the vase. Eberhard held it up to the light coming through the patio door, those colors came alive in the bright daylight. A truly beautiful piece of art, they said it had been made special for us, and is one of a kind made by the Kaubeuren / Neugablonz Glassworks which stands on the ground of the ancient German ammunition factory. The process of fusing into glass is called "Glasmalerei," then the material is coated in layers and the vase is burned two or three times with a temperature of 580 to 600 Degrees Centigrade. "Zylinderglasvase" is the name of the vase. The artist was Monica Kempkes from Munich, Germany.
The entire party followed me downstairs to my research office which is some twenty feet in length. I opened the door, turned on the lights saying, "Welcome to my bunker. The place caught their attention in a hurry, there are 140 framed 8 x 10 and larger aviation photos on the walls. Some are autographed and inscribed to me by famous aviators, one of whom is General Lester Maitland standing next to his racing plane in 1923. Another is a swastika which I chopped from the fin of a Focke-Wulf 190 in France. Also a piece of wing tip from an RAF Mosquito Bomber that blew up over our airdrome about noontime February 5, 1944 at Great Dunmow after colliding with an RAF Lancaster Bomber.
I had set up a table 4 x 5 feet, on top of which I fitted together a mosaic of 1 : 1,000,000 scale air navigation charts provided by the U.S. Defense Mapping and Aerospace Center located in St. Louis. The charts are dated 1943 and 1944. They cover from west coast of England to our bases at Boxted and Great Dunmow on the east side and over to France, Belgium, Holland, and the lower part of Denmark. Then eastward across Germany to the Polish Border. South covering part of Austria, Switzerland, and northern part of Italy. The mosaic is completely covered over with Plexiglas. During mission researching I draw out the courses flown by the Group on top of the Plexiglas with an orange grease pencil, showing all check points, I.P. target, etc. On occasion I photograph the routes for record.
Eberhard set up his flood lamps and movie camera to record the table top route scene of Group mission number 395 to his home town of Kaufbeuren. Just a day before they arrived I had completed painting in 386th colors, a scale model of an A-26 aircraft. Our Group had switched over to the Douglas A-26 Invader about mid February, 1945 when we ceased operations with the Martin B-26 Marauders. The very last plane to fly over the target was Lieutenant Karl Huckaby, I chose to model his ship, 322386 RU-E. Please note, the last three digits of his tail number coincidentally match our Group number. The model was placed on the route to Kaufbeuren by Eberhard, then shot some movie footage of the scene.
About 1815 hours we left my home and made our way back to Lambert field where I had made dinner reservations at the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. The building is a replica of a French Chateau which served as Headquarters for the 94th Aero Squadron during the First World War. A full size Nieuport 28 Fighter Plane is parked out in front along with sandbagged machine gun nests, a 1917 ambulance, a mine field with shell holes, and a barbed wire entanglement completed the illusion of decades past! The theme continued on the inside as well, photos of fighter aces, more machine guns, and aircraft parts. There was a full wing panel of a German plane hanging from the ceiling above our table. The west side of the building was all windows so one could watch the planes taking off from the east end of Lambert Field. The control tower chatter was piped in for tables having head sets. Our youngest son Dennis joined us for dinner, after which the party returned to our home, and the history work was resumed in the bunker.
I learned more about the woman who made the prediction concerning Kaufbeuren, she was born in 1682, became a nun and lived in Crescentia Convent located in Kaufbeuren. Her name was Sister Crescentia Maria Hossin, she died April 5, 1744. Eberhard gave me an artist rendition of her along with a painting showing Kaufbeuren circa 1700, and Crescentia Convent circa 1800. I have two aerial photos taken April 30, 1983 showing the convent and St. Martin’s Church from an altitude of approximately 500 feet. The houses and shops are mostly four to five stories high topped with steep gabled roofs that radiate old world charm!
Arno and Eberhard gave me details of what went on during the war regarding their town. An airdrome was situated at the south end of town, Hitler and his staff would land there then make a forty minute automobile drive up to his mountain top retreat which he called "Bercitesgaden" The grass runway airdrome also served as a final assembly point for fighter planes that had been shipped in by train. Wings would be bolted on and the planes then flown off to active war fronts! A large munitions plant was located on the north side of town, it produced ammo during World War I and all through World War II.
The plant is now the site of the glass works. I remarked to Eberhard, "It is better they make glass there," he laughed pointing to me saying, "Ja Ja, better for you!" Apparently the U.S. Air Force and the RAF were unaware of the activity there all during the war. Air Force records show the area was only attacked one time. That took place on the 25th of February 1945 when twelve B-17’s bombed there as a casual target - it had a railroad siding along the edge of town. The reason being the 388th B-17 Bomb Group had been scheduled to attack a primary target in Munich, it was closed over so they dropped on the Kaufbeuren area on the way back. Twelve planes dropped a mixed load of 500 pound general purpose demolition bombs along with some incendiary bombs. One bomber released ten containers of propaganda leaflets as well from 22,000 feet at 1217 hours. The planes were from the 45th Combat Bombardment Wing, 3rd Air Division, Eighth Air Force. All of the planes were from ‘C’ Squadron. Only one house burned and another collapsed from the bomb blast - the nun’s prediction was still holding!
Eberhard took many still shots of my research material to verify facts concerning the 386th bombing mission of Thursday April 12, 1945. The most informative evening ended at 2300 hours with plans to reconvene at their hotel at 0900 hours Sunday.
Sunday morning greeted us with an arctic blast, four inches of new snow with winds gusting to 50 m.p.h. My wife Violet and I piled into our car and drove two miles to pick up our eldest son Ronald, then continued on to the hotel - not an easy task, the roads were slick and the swirling snow reduced visibility to one hundred feet at times. The photo crew tagged on behind us in their car.
Today’s agenda called for a rendezvous at the home of our son Dennis, which would be the site for the final shooting of the film documentary. Fresh snow made his place look like a chalet in the Swiss Alps. Eberhard was out of their car in a flash with his huge movie camera, panning across the front as we walked to the door amid the blustery snow! Two fireplaces were producing thousands of welcome B.T.U.’s as we were greeted by Gayla and Dennis. After hot coffee and Danish, the setting up of movie and the sound equipment got underway. When those large quartz flood lamps came on the living room took on the appearance of a Hollywood set! The ceiling in this room is two stories high with gold tone skylights.
Eberhard asked me to sit at the end of a davenport near the fireplace, he wanted a two minute close-up shot with me telling of the bad weather conditions at Kaufbeuren and Kempton on that fateful day! After which he moved his camera and tripod up to a balcony, he would be shooting down and across the living room to where I was sitting. I asked Arno if he would be asking questions interview fashion during the filming. He said, "No, all of the documentary is complete except your part. We have reserved fifteen minutes of filming for you to tell the story of your Group’s bombing mission to our town!
There were no cue cards, no script, just on my own - or as they say in show business, ad-libbing off the top of my head! Luckily for me I had finished writing the final draft of the mission only a couple days before, most of the important details were still fresh in my mind. However, fifteen minutes of looking into the camera and speaking from memory can seem like a very long time indeed! Arno would give me a signal when to start and then show five fingers after each five minutes was completed.
Eberhard began rolling film with camera looking into the leaping flames of the fireplace, then slowly panned to me as Arno gave me the start signal. I mentioned Field Order 542 from 99 Combat Bomb Wing which directed the 386th Group to attack an ordnance depot located at Kempten, Germany. A secondary target was the marshalling yard located at Goppingen on the return route. Briefing had begun at 0535 hours at the Group’s new home, St. Trond, Belgium. In all, thirty-eight flight crews received route information, flak data, along with communications and weather information. Captain Robert Preston, an S-2 Officer, who just happened to have a sideline job as a Hollywood actor had worked up the intelligence package for this particular mission.
Major Bud Lambert led the formation of A-26’s off at 0745 hours with Liege, Belgium as the first check point. Then flew a 160 mile leg to Ludwigshaven where they linked up with their P-51 Fighter escort. The bombers at this point were averaging 229 m.p.h. Some light type flak came up approximately 10 miles southwest of Heidelberg as the formation crossed over the bomb line at 0905 hours. The Group’s next course change would occur at Dillingen, which lay some 115 miles ahead. Each plane carried six 500 pound bombs.
Briefing instructions called for bombing from 12,000 feet, they were now flying at 7,000 feet due to descending ceilings as slashes of rain fell across windshields of two boxes of nineteen aircraft each. The rain became steady and visibility dropped off to about two miles. The formation turned right at Dillingen taking up a heading of 183 degrees which would lead them to the I.P. (Initial Point) at Kaufbeuren; having a airdrome and railroad junction it was considered as a causal target. On this leg the formation began their maneuvering for position so they could bomb by individual flights of six due to the small area of the target. To complicate matters, lowing ceilings forced the bombers to fly below 5,500 feet as they made a right turn over Kaufbeuren thus setting up a bomb run on Kempten eighteen miles to the southwest.
Lieutenant Nicholas Bouras could not pick up the target in his bomb sight because of the heavy haze and less than one mile of visibility. His pilot Major Lambert decided to return to base with their bombs - high flight leader Lieutenant Tibbs Golladay did likewise. They exited with both flights to an area southwest of the heavily defended Stuttgart. Lieutenant William Mills, leader of the low flight had seven ships in his flock as he headed for the secondary target at Goppingen, where they bombed from 6,500 feet with excellent results. Unknown to him, he was the only flight leader not receiving the word that the marshalling yard target had been called off! Meanwhile second box leader Captain Oates could not locate the Kempten target in the haze after three runs, now running low on fuel his flight finally jettisoned their bombs into a woods three miles east of Mindelheim. Lieutenant Smith leader of the low flight, had his flight jettison their bombs into an open field near Schormdorf, but in the process stirred up the flak defenses on the northeast side of Stuttgart at 1040 hours.
Captain Dickson was leading the seven ship high flight on its third bomb run, but to no avail because of extremely poor visibility. They decided to bomb the causal target at Kaufbeuren. Eye witnesses on the ground said they could see the bombs hanging in the open bomb bays of the aircraft as they flew over the town. I was told many of them blessed themselves saying, "This must be the end!"
All seven ships released their bombs at low altitude. Number four pilot was Lieutenant Edward Elliott, he said his altimeter was indicating 3,500 feet. The immediate terrain in that area rose to 2822 feet at the airfield, which means they were flying only 678 feet above the ground in a heavy rain, and visibility less than a mile in the foothills of the Swiss Alps! Pilots could only see fifteen seconds ahead through their windshields while flying nearly four miles per minute - precious little time for corrective action while flying in close formation--should a mountain suddenly appear in the curtain of mist and fog! The seven crews returned to base claiming to have bombed Kaufbeuren. A photo interpreter said no bomb strikes appeared on the negatives from the automatic camera because the intervalometer was set for 12,000 feet. The camera had a twenty second delay setting, and actually did not start taking photos until the aircraft was about one-quarter mile beyond the impact area of the bombs. He thought the photos looked like the Oberbeuren area, a tiny suburb of Kaufbeuren. In reality the bombs landed in nearby Mimmingen, impacting across the road dangerously close to an allied officers P.O.W. camp. However no injuries were recorded. All thirty-eight ships returned safely to base, although six of them received battle damage. Most pilots during interrogation questioned the wisdom of flying a mission in such atrocious weather conditions!
Sister Crescentia Maria Hossin’s centuries old prediction: "At Kaufbeuren, two houses will not burn at the same time!" It prevailed against the B-17’s of the 388th Bomb Group raid of February 25, 1945 when only one house burned down, a second collapsed from the blast. On April 12, 1945 it managed to divert winged warfare away from her home town in still another way. The 386th Bomb Group came into being because of war need on the 1st of December, 1942, eventually it helped carry the war to Germany.
History has come full circle; possibly our Group records will show that some very extraordinary circumstances occurred during the mission. No lives were lost, no property damage in the town, no airmen were wounded, none of our airplanes collided or hit a mountain in such horrible weather conditions, and none of the allied P.O.W.’s were hurt when the bombs fell so close to them! A total of one hundred thirty 500 pound bombs were dropped in the vicinity. Perhaps in a minute way the record will show a bit of proof for the myriad facts required by the Catholic Church to raise this former German citizen to sainthood! This woman pursued a life long practice of religious virtue. As a faithful daughter of St. Frances she observed strict poverty, solitude, fraternal charity, and most of all humility.
On October, 1900 Pope Leo XIII performed a rite of beatification for the Blessed Crescentia of Kaufbeuren - the first stage of sainthood. Now the devoted citizens of Kaufbeuren along with the Lotos Film Company hope to provide the required proof for her to reach the final step - that being canonization! Since her death on Easter Morning well over 270 years have past by both in war and peace - which can only add credence to the statement, "Time is the greatest healer of all!"
After the filming had been completed, with no retakes required camera gear was packed away, then Gayla and Dennis provided all with a very tasty buffet luncheon. Arno told the assembled the one hour film documentary would be shown on German Television later in the year. Much too soon it was time to say good by to our new found friends; they drove to the airport, and we drove on home!
Religious portions are excerpts taken from a story entitled, "Blessed Crescentia of Kaufbeuren 1682 - 1744." Written by Fr. Berchmans Hofmann C.M.M.
Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group